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Forecasters: 1st hurricane of the eastern Pacific season forms off Mexico, strengthens rapidly

MIAMI - The first hurricane of the eastern Pacific season formed hundreds of miles off Mexico's coast Saturday and could become a major storm by Sunday though it poses no immediate threat to land, forecasters in Miami said.

A Category 1 hurricane, Amanda was about 660 miles (1,060 kilometres) southwest of Manzanillo, Mexico, and had sustained winds of 80 mph (130 kph). The National Hurricane Center in Miami said Amanda was moving west-northwest Saturday at about 5 mph (7 kph) while rapidly intensifying.

Senior Hurricane Specialist Stacy Stewart told The Associated Press that Amanda does not appear to pose any threat to mainland Mexico at least over the next five days. He said it could become a major hurricane sometime Sunday, still far out in the Pacific.

"The forecast is calling for it to remain far offshore," Stewart said, adding the storm could eventually generate strong surf, especially along Mexico's Baja California coast.

No coastal watches or warnings were in effect Saturday.

The eastern Pacific season opened May 15, two weeks ahead of the six-month Atlantic hurricane season that begins June 1.

Federal forecasters with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released forecasts for both areas recently. In the Atlantic, they said, they expect eight to 13 named tropical storms, of which three to six could become hurricanes. Of those, one or two major hurricanes with winds over 110 mph are forecast.

In the eastern Pacific, Stewart said, NOAA forecasters are calling for 14 to 20 named tropical storms, of which seven to 11 are forecast to become hurricanes. Three to six of those hurricanes are expected to become major hurricanes, he said.

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